Learning to cook with allergens

I’m trying to improve the selection and quality of food my wife has available here at home, so I’m learning to cook with allergens. I don’t think it is much different than learning to juggle with swords and fire instead of those soft little bean bags. Sometimes it hurts, but I understand my boundaries much better than I did when having a lot of allergies was new to me.

Not being able to taste anything is really interesting, as all of the flavor profiles have to come from memory. I can’t taste the food and tweak the flavor this way or the other. Thankfully I ate and cooked a lot of really wonderful foods before I got the allergies. If it weren’t for that, I’d really be in trouble.

So I’m a few brave days into this deadly new world, and I have learned a few things: I am really, really, really allergic to hazelnuts. Even the cold raw nuts, completely unprocessed, sitting in a bowl on the counter brought on a reaction – and not such a small one either. But do they ever smell good! The hazelnuts are now frozen in their soaking brine, waiting for a kind neighbor to help drain and rinse them.

Coconut is an interesting allergen for me. I love it like I love hazelnuts, but it isn’t so fond of me. It is in things that I use, like Charlie’s Soap, but I have to be extremely careful with it. I can’t heat it past a certain point because I react to the fumes. I’m not exactly sure where the tipping point is, other than that it is somewhere just past melting, but it certainly makes its presence known.

Interestingly enough, the almonds I soaked and rinsed and dried (outside) haven’t caused me a single problem. I was expecting they would. I haven’t cut or heated them yet, but so far they haven’t started up with me. If this lack of a reaction persists, I wouldn’t mind trying the almonds, even if it were only to eat those delicate little Maronchinos again (The Book of Jewish Food, Claudia Roden, Page 608). I’m not sure a better cookie exists.

Many thanks to the raw foodists and crazy diet fiends for coming up with all of these apparently delicious, uber-healthy, and somewhat wacky combinations of allergens that I don’t need to cook. Because of you I can (sort of) safely make tasty things for my wonderful wife without using up my stash of Epi-Pens.

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